Bethel Island 1/23 TUFTED DUCK, Hooded Oriole

Logan Kahle

Hi all,

Yesterday 1/23 I birded Bethel Island with Augie Kramer, C├ędric Duhalde, and Jonah Benningfield. I've long since wanted to spend an entire day birding on Bethel, and this is the closest to an entire day I've been able to do. We got a late start, rolling up around 10am, but managed to cover many parts of the island over the next 8 hours.

We started in the neighborhoods along Taylor Drive and the nearby levee in the southwest part of the island. From there we worked north on Bethel Island road to the Harbor drive Fields to look at the shorebirds and waterfowl in the flooded areas. We proceeded to the Frank's Tract Overlook and briefly checked for passerines around the Willowest Marina. We then went to Piper Slough for dusk.

Overall, the passerine birding on the island was very solid. The amount of standing water on the island was similar to earlier in the year, and shorebird numbers were moderate to poor. On Frank's Tract the numbers of Coots has gone down since my visit at the beginning of the year, but numbers of diving ducks have increased.

The highlights were a male TUFTED DUCK originally spotted by Jonah on Frank's Tract and a female HOODED ORIOLE in the neighborhoods along Taylor rd.

Additionally, birds of local interest included:

Snow Goose-300, including 3 Blue Geese, grounded on the north part of the island was fairly unusual on the ground on Bethel
Ross's Goose-3 grounded along Harbor rd were good birds on the ground on Bethel
Canvasback-500 on Frank's Tract was a good count there. Numbers of aythya have increased in this area recently as is often the case here in late winter
TUFTED DUCK-1 at Frank's Tract represents the second record for East county away from Clifton Court (the other record was also here, 3 years ago). If you're interested in chasing this bird see notes at the bottom of this message for how to get to the spot
Horned Grebe-2 on Frank's
Allen's Hummingbird-1 along with a female-type selasphorus at Willowest was around at the expected arrival time for this disjunct delta population
American Coot-35000 was about expected on Frank's Tract, though an additional 8900 from Piper was high for there
Long-billed Dowitcher-20 was the most numerous shorebird present
Lesser Yellowlegs-2
Bonaparte's Gull-35 at Piper at dusk
Mew Gull-1
Western Gull-2 were split between Piper and Frank's Tract
Thayer's Gull-1 was locally uncommon
Glaucous-winged Gull-3 was a solid count here
Green Heron-1
Barn Owl-1 at Piper at dusk
Red-breasted Sapsucker-2 in the southwestern neighborhoods was surprising locally for this normally very uncommon winterer
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH-1 in southwestern neighborhoods was a very uncommon-rare bird for the CoCo delta islands
House Wren-1 was an incredibly low count
HOODED ORIOLE-1 female along Taylor rd on the southwest side of the island contributes to the emergent pattern of Hooded Orioles wintering in the delta
Orange-crowned Warbler-18 including one "gray-headed" was a nice count
Yellow-rumped Warbler-130 was a nice count for the delta

Full eBird lists here:
and here:

Notes on accessing the Tufted Duck location:

The spot where the Tufted Duck was viewed from is the private balcony of the Bethel Harbor Store (I don't recall if that's the actual name or not) located at the east end of Harbor rd. To get to the balcony, go up the steps heading up from the parking lot at the east end of Harbor rd and into the store to ask if you can use the balcony for birdwatching (I try to buy something while I'm there as a courtesy). The storeowners have fortunately been very welcoming of birders up until this point.

This year, during COVID, there may be some restrictions on lots of people going to look for the Tufted. It is a private location and I'm uncertain how many people the owners want to be up there at this time or even how hot they are on visitors at all right now, but its worth a shot if you're in the area. I'm not sure how many people will be interested in chasing this bird but it's probably best to communicate with the store owners as to how many birders are allowed up at a given time (it's not a huge balcony). Viewing of the Tract away from that spot is tricky and may or may not be publicly possible, but that's also worth looking into if you're birding the area.

For anyone who finds themselves on Bethel looking for any of these birds there are also vast neighborhoods on the east side of the island (e.g. along Willow road) that, as far as I know, haven't been covered at all this winter and could easily host a good Sparrow, Warbler or Blackbird.

Good birding,